“”I want a nasty little Jewish princess/With long phony nails and a hairdo that rinses.
|—Frank Zappa, "Jewish Princess"|
The Jewish-American Princess (JAP) is a controversial stereotype that originated in the Jewish community in post-World War II America. Early instances of the stereotype are associated with the authors Philip Roth and Herman Wouk, though they didn't specifically use the JAP label. The Jewish-American Princess is portrayed as materialistic, pampered, and narcissistic, a result of an upper-class upbringing. She is extremely prissy and fashion-conscious, wearing gaudy jewelry, overdone makeup, and a coiffure styled with liberal amounts of hairspray. Her voice is often grating and nasally and she speaks in a thick Noo Yawwwk accent due to the origins of the stereotype in the New York metropolitan area. She is lazy, ditzy, self-absorbed, and disrespectful of her elders. She is often sexually deficient in some way, usually being portrayed as frigid, sexually repressed, or unable to be pleased.
A common trope in Jewish comedy involves the naggy mother who insists that the son settle down with a "nice Jewish girl." The mother then sets the son up on dates with the daughters of friends in her social circle who all turn out to be JAPs. Hilarity ensues.
Derivations of the stereotype
Because New York is home to both a large Jewish and Italian population, the JAP label migrated into Italian-American culture as the Italian-American Princess (IAP). The IAP is mostly identical to the JAP except that she is Roman Catholic (and often seen wearing garish gold crucifix necklaces) and portrayed as a slut instead of sexually disinclined.
The terms "princess" and "rich bitch" are often used to invoke the stereotype without the ethnic connotations.
Is it bigoted?
Usage of the JAP label has been criticized by both Jews and feminists (as the IAP label has been similarly criticized by some Italians). Some argue that it perpetuates stereotypes about Jews being greedy and stingy as the JAP is portrayed as materialistic and a "gold-digger." Because JAP jokes often revolve around inadequacy in sexual relations and domestic duties (e.g., "What does a JAP make for dinner? Reservations!"), feminists argue that it perpetuates sexism by belittling women for failing to live up to traditional gender roles. The JAP acronym has also been criticized as insensitive toward people of Japanese descent, as "Jap" (note the different capitalization) is also an offensive slur against Japanese people.
Defenders of the label argue that self-deprecation and self-mockery of Jewish culture has always been central to Jewish humor and that the stereotype is no different than any others found in Jewish humor. They also argue that it is similar to culturally acceptable stereotypes such as WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) or DINK (Double Income No Kids). Some Jewish women openly call themselves JAPs and see it as a "cosmopolitan" trend.
The Anti-Defamation League famously attempted to have Frank Zappa's song "Jewish Princess" censored from radio, calling its lyrics anti-Semitic. Zappa denied any anti-Semitic sentiments and replied that he had received no complaints about numerous other songs lampooning cultural stereotypes before.